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Federal IT mobile plans slowed by security, budget concerns

Kenneth Corbin | May 22, 2013
Ahead of the one-year anniversary of the White House's digital government strategy, a new study from the Mobile Work Exchange takes stock of how agencies are pressing ahead with mobility plans.

With the one-year anniversary of that plan approaching, the Mobile Work Exchange, an organization dedicated to the advancement of remote work, has polled 175 federal IT executives to get a sense of how far they have progressed in developing and implementing their mobile strategies.

The results were, in a word, mixed.

Grading Mobile Progress
"When we dig into it a little more deeply, they've clearly stated to make progress on things," says Chris Roberts, vice president of the worldwide public sector business at Good Technology, which sponsored the study. "It seems like they've all started to work on this problem, and they've attacked what I call the foundational issues."

A slim majority of the respondents52 percentsay that their agency has taken steps to "mature" their mobile strategy over the past year, though concerns over security, budget constraints and the upheaval of an election year have all slowed the advance of mobile technology in the federal government.

Asked to grade their agencies' progress on implementing the White House mobility directive, the respondents more or less line up along a bell curve, with 39 percent giving their agency a "C," 36 percent a "B," and 16 percent a "D." Just 7 percent say they would award their agency an "A," and 2 percent said "F."

Seventy-three percent of the respondents identify security as a barrier to mobility, making that consideration the leading impediment, followed by budgeting, which 60 percent of respondents cited as an obstacle.

The IT executives polled in the survey report that they have been taking several steps to address the security issues that arise with mobility, including the rollout of encryption technology, mobile device management and multi-factor authentication.

Additionally, federal agencies have begun to develop training programs to educate employees about mobile security issues. Sixty-five percent of the survey respondents report that their agency has such a program in place, and 68 percent say that employees in their agency receive written information about mobile device security.

"That's an excellent step that they've taken," says Roberts. "A lot of the hacks, a lot of the breaches come from social engineeringsocial kinds of things you want to make sure employees are aware of."

The security issues agencies have been dealing with in assessing their mobility plans received a new wrinkle in February, when President Obama issued an executive order on cybersecurity that tasked the agencies with developing a framework for sharing threat information and better coordinating with private-sector technology providers, among other areas of focus.

Mobile All About the Money
"The progress that they've made has been slowed in large part by sequestration," Roberts says. "If it had been a non-election year, had we not faced sequestration, I think cybersecurity alone would not have derailed a lot of initiatives."


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